Cisco’s advocacy community, Cisco Insider, brings our customers together and provides a way for them to make powerful connections, expand their professional and personal networks, and learn from top experts in their field. One of our goals is to deepen our relationships with our customers. Our Q&A series allows us to shine a spotlight on some of our most passionate advocates as we learn about their backgrounds.

Today, we have one of the friendliest faces in the community joining us for a chat. I’m excited to welcome Tim Harmon from Journey Community Church.

Tim is a member of Cisco Insider Advocates, Cisco Insider Champions, and the Cisco Networking Academy Student Advisory Board.

Welcome, Tim! Let’s kick things off by talking about what you wanted to be when you were 16 years old?

I always wanted to be a meteorologist. In Colorado, I grew up watching Mike Nelson forecast the weather on the news. In high school, I got the chance to visit KUSA 9NEWS. I spent the day in the studio reading weather reports and watching behind-the-scenes action. I loved every minute of it.

What an amazing experience! How did you pivot to start your career in IT? What professional decision or opportunity helped lead you to your current role?

Unfortunately, when I moved from Colorado to San Diego, Calif., there were no meteorology programs at any of the schools I considered. One day at the trolley stop, I heard someone talking about telecommunications, which sounded interesting. I did a little research and decided to get my diploma at Associated Technical College and then my bachelor’s degree in computer science with a networking emphasis at California College San Diego (CCSD). Next, I continued my education with a master’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in cybersecurity. It’s fascinating to understand the different technologies and how they work together.

In between my graduate programs, I worked at a managed security service provider (MSSP) as a security analyst and fell in love with security. Nowadays, you hear so many stories about new cyber threats and companies getting attacked. I want to be the one to help them position to defend themselves.

COVID played a role in the way I obtained my current position. I was volunteering on the production team at Journey Community Church. In March 2021, the weekend production director asked if I’d be interested in joining the staff. I’m now the person charged with getting the computer graphics (CG) ready each weekend and making sure all production team roles are filled.

That’s awesome. I wonder how long your journey would have taken without that day at the trolley stop. The Cisco Networking Academy is a great place to develop cybersecurity skills. How did your experience with the Academy begin?

Many years ago, I was the assistant director for vendors and entertainment at the San Diego Gay Rodeo. In 2010, the director, who was also a teacher at DeVry University, told me about Cisco Networking Academy. I applied immediately. It turned out that Cisco Networking Academy was offered through San Diego Continuing Education. It was such a great experience! All classes were in person and the program was truly hands-on with a live lab that used routers, switches, computers, and cables. A special moment was when I got the opportunity to go to Cisco Live 2015 as part of the Dream Team. We helped build the entire wireless network for the event and it was one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had.

We may need to write another blog post on just your rodeo experience! What an incredible opportunity to be a part of the Dream Team! How did you become a member of the Cisco Networking Academy Student Advisory Board?

WA photo of Cisco Insider Tim Harmon at the San Diego Rodeoell, I was named Mr. San Diego Rodeo 2007, so plenty to talk about! After Cisco announced the new Cisco Certified Cyber Ops Associate certification and the scholarship program in 2016, I applied, was accepted, and earned my certification. Given my familiarity with the team and my long-time engagement with Cisco Networking Academy, I was invited to become a part of the Student Advisory Board. Our role is to ensure that the program is continually improving and up to date with current information technology and information security trends. And my learning hasn’t stopped there. I’ve begun a two-year program to obtain a master’s degree in advanced studies in data and engineering at the University of California, San Diego and will graduate in June 2025.

I love that you’re still on the board today and we’re rooting for you in your studies! Pivoting slightly, what do you love about the Cisco Insider Champions community?

The Cisco Insider Champions program engages with more than 300 people from all over the world who come together to share their expertise. We get sneak peeks at evolving Cisco technologies and have the chance to give feedback. They teach us how to elevate our personal brand, so we learn blogging skills and how to share content on social media. Cisco Champions get exclusive access at Cisco Live, including behind-the-scenes opportunities, fun parties, and the chance to do a podcast at the Podcast Domain in the World of Solutions.

I hear you’re also a part of another program under the Cisco Insider umbrella! Tell me about your experience with Cisco Insider Advocates?

Cisco Insider Advocates is a community any Cisco customer can join with different channels to explore. I’ve learned so much about not just security but Catalyst Center, Thousand Eyes, Intersight, Duo, and more. Every day I learn something new. The rewards I get for completing challenges are a great bonus. And I love the CIA booth at Cisco Live as a great place to hang out and meet fellow advocates and community managers.

Image of Tim Harmon with a quote about Cisco Insider

How have being a part of these communities impacted you both professionally and personally?

Being a part of Cisco Insider has helped me find and connect with people that I consider my close friends. Cisco Insider has really helped me branch out. I’d never blogged or done social media before. Now, I’ve started own blog site and launched my own YouTube channel to share cybersecurity tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. It’s designed for people from beginner to intermediate so that they can enjoy and learn with me.

You’re involved with so much within Cisco and we appreciate you greatly. Last question, is there anything else in your life you’re super passionate about and want to highlight?

I’m a part of a nonprofit here in San Diego called BSidesSD. BSides is an annual information cybersecurity conference where speakers do a practice run before they present at Black Hat and DEF CON in Vegas over the summer. I’ve created a promo and teaser video for it on my new YouTube channel (SecurityCyberGeek). The conference will take place March 30, 2024 at San Diego State University. I’m super excited to be leading as the volunteer coordinator this year! Check out their website for more information and to learn about future events!

Read more advocate interviews

You might enjoy this interview with Cisco Insider Damian Erni.

Join us!

For our customers who have already joined our Cisco Insider Advocates community, say hello to Tim if you haven’t met yet. And if you’re a Cisco customer but aren’t a community member, consider joining. You’ll be able to:

  • Connect with peers in a gamified, online community
  • Have an opportunity to meet with Cisco’s executives
  • Share your feedback, questions, and best practices
  • Get access to ‘insider’ content and resources
  • Grow your professional and personal brand
  • Amplify your company’s success story with Cisco technology

Ready to get started?

Head over to the Cisco Insider Advocates Community and say hello!

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Mariela Montiel

Marketing Specialist